Here at Due Midwest, I’m always trying to explore new (to me) places to share with you! If they are within a short drive of the Twin Cities, it’s even better. Located about an hour and a half drive south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, you’ll find Mankato. It is positioned right where the Minnesota River and the Blue Earth River meet so be on the lookout for great scenery. Mankato is known for their extensive bike trails and river activities but the super cute downtown is also worth exploring. Here are my suggestions on how to spend a day exploring Mankato!
Fuel up with breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Cafe
You’ve got a jam packed day ahead so start with the most important meal of the day! This diner-like restaurant has been serving Mankatoans (Mankatoers? Not sure!) for over 65 years. The owner, Karen, was nice enough to sit down and chat with us while we were there. You don’t get better service than that! We learned that they just re-did their menu and it did not disappoint . My boyfriend loved the Hog Pile and I couldn’t get enough of my chicken fried steak. Big portions for a decent price will get your day started off on the right foot! For more info, head to their Facebook page here.
After Breakfast Dessert at Bluebird Cakery
Located right next door to the Wagon Wheel Cafe is Bluebird Cakery. Just the cutest little dessert shop you ever did see, right? The cupcakes here are so tasty, I wish we had left enough room to try more than one flavor. You could get them to go but we decided we weren’t quite full enough and had the Berries and Cream cupcake right away. YOLO!
Work Off Those Calories at Minneopa State Park
Since we couldn’t even think about food after our delicious breakfast and treat, we decided to get some exercise and go for a hike at Minneopa State Park. Just a short drive outside of the city, you really get a huge variety of nature at this state park. We saw a raging waterfall, said hi to a herd of wild bison, and walked through some gorgeous woodlands. Read my full post about the park here.
Grab Lunch With a Side of Music
Mankato is host to many festivals throughout the year but we were lucky enough to be there during the Solstice festival. Solstice is two day camping and music festival which is typically held at Land of Memories park. Unfortunately, this year the venue was flooded so it had to be moved last minute! Even with the quick venue change, we still heard some great music, checked out great vendors, and drooled over all the food trucks. They also have a really cool part of the event called Paddle Jam, where you can follow behind a pontoon in your kayak and listen to music. We’ll have to cross our fingers that the water level stays low next year so we can check it out!
Explore Local Shops
Mankato is filled with cute boutiques! You should definitely leave time in your schedule to explore what they have to offer.
Our first stop was Curiosi-Tea House. We loved the unique atmosphere of the shop and the owner was really lovely. If you’re a tea lover, you’ll find something here to tickle your fancy. I tried some cold tea and an almond cookie which were both so tasty! I wish I had gotten more than one cookie… They are moving locations so make sure you keep an eye out for her new space in North Mankato.
Next stop on our shop tour was Vivian Rose Boutique. Imagine your most fashionable friend and then picture being able to buy whatever is in her closet. This is what shopping here made me think of! The boutique started as an online only shop but opened a brick and mortar location only about a year ago. If you’re looking for something unique and trendy, get your butt over there and I’m sure you’ll find something great.
The last shop we saw was the super cute Salvage Sisters Mercantile. This was full to the brim of things I would love to have in my home. From cute dishware, to jewelry, art, furniture and unique gifts for friends, you could really find everything here! We got a chance to talk to the owner’s mother which was such a treat. It was really hard to narrow down what we wanted to buy but I’m happy with our purchase of hand made soaps!
Last But Not Least – Dinner time
There are so many good places to eat in Mankato so it will be hard for you to choose just one. We decided to head over to Number 4 which is a gastropub off Walnut Street. The name is based on the four elements and each dish had a unique take on the traditional. We both had sandwiches which were really excellent. I would love some of those fries right now as well!
I hope you enjoyed my quick tour of Mankato! Make sure to check out their website for even more activities and festivals going on throughout the year. When we go back again, I would love to get out on the river and kayak or hit up some of the bike trails! I think the annual Mahkato pow-wow would be an amazing experience as well. Have you ever been to Mankato before? What was your favorite experience?
I was a guest of Visit Mankato during my trip but as usual, all opinions are my own!